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Web Letter

Hirshman's essay reads as an analysis of the role of political and social philosophy in the recent debates. As an analysis of Obama and his social/political philosophy, it is very weak.

I'm a bit surprised that Hirshman hasn't done a bit more homework on Obama. She would only need to look a little bit deeper to find reference in Obama's stump speeches to caring for others in the way she suggests. She would only have to crack his book The Audacity of Hope to find the presence of FDR and the New Deal throughout.

I agree with the spirit of the argument Hirshman makes about the need to offer a philosophical alternative to the right. I disagree that Obama has just recently started to formulate this. If one takes the time to look, it is clear he started with this in mind.

Sean Lauer

Vancouver, BC

Oct 26 2008 - 6:43pm

Web Letter

If only there was some personal evidence in Obama's past that indicates he put his money where his philosophy lies... I see little in the way of altruism or charity, very little.

And with his children in private school, I get a double reminder that he says one thing, does another.

Set an example, Obama--then maybe more of us will follow you.

Karen Wizevich

West Hartford, CT

Oct 25 2008 - 8:15pm

Web Letter

As Bernard Shaw pointed out, streetlights are a form of socialism; we benefit from them whether we pay taxes or not. But would we really want to live in the dark, just to avoid giving someone a "handout"?

Surely we all benefit if our citizens have access to healthcare, education, food and shelter. The absence of such amenities of civilization promotes crime, resentment, and general barbarism. Those who resent sharing their good fortune to any degree might consider moving to Alaska, where they could worship at the altar of Sarah Palin and really enjoy the every-man-for-himself philosophy.

The Founders wrote frequently of "the common good" and "social happiness." No one accuses them of communism. Some of the earlier states (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Massachusetts) are known as "commonwealths"--a truly pinko term. Parks are still known in places as "the commons"--think of Boston Commons. Even the NYC wealthy could not enjoy Central Park if it were parcelled up into individual pieces of property.

Carol V. Hamilton

Pittsburgh, PA

Oct 25 2008 - 7:14pm

Web Letter

Maybe when the election's finished, Obama will warn us never to vote for anyone who can register a million voters but who forgets that the voting machines don't work for Democrats. Ever notice how, since the day you were born, you've been getting a cash register receipt every time you purchased a loaf of bread or a quart of milk--but you still can't get a receipt from a voting machine?

Cameron Jones

Indiana, PA

Oct 24 2008 - 5:29pm

Web Letter

What may not be obvious is that a significant percentage of us "trust fund babies" also understand that the only engine of a healthy, growing, and sustainable economy in this country has been a robust, solvent middle class.

And we also understand the important of factoring in the "Happiness Quotient." It doesn't feel good--regardless of one's financial wealth or lack of same--to live in a country in which people fear one another, believe that opportunity is a zero sum game and what you just got is something I just lost, and in which nastiness and division is the primary energy in which we meet one another.

That was the real importance of the message John Edwards tried to convey with his "Two Americas" theme, and which Barack Obama addresses from a slightly different perspective when he emphasizes the need to get beyond our ugly partisan politics and work together to solve the nation's problems.

If we are all connected (and I believe we are), then I can't be really prosperous--in the fullest sense of that word--unless you are as well. I cannot be wealthy--in the fullest sense of that word--unless you, at least, have "enough."

The philosophy here is pretty clear, and it's been proposed by every single one of the world's major religions for thousands of years. Perhaps we're finally ready to embrace that approach, and begin to think of one another as "neighbors." Our present crises have within themselves the seeds of a magnificant leap forward... should we choose to take it.

Suzie Kidder

San Rafael, CA

Oct 24 2008 - 3:07pm

Web Letter

I hope that Senator Obama will have read, before he takes his seat in the Oval Office, Andrew Bacevich's new book entitled The Limits of Power--The End of Amercian Exceptionalism. The book has been on the bestseller lists. The author is a West Point graduate and a retired colenel who served in Vietnam, who lost a son in Iraq last year. He currently teaches history and international studies at Boston University, and his book very clearly and eloquently discusses the three crises America faces today:
1. Economic and cultural
2. Political
3. Military

Unless Obama is extraordinarily enlightened, he will be sworn in as yet another imperial president and by default will maintain the status quo.

Let me quote the following passages from Bacevich's book, which for me summarize America's current plight. I would enourage all your readers, and especially Senator Obama, to inhale this book now!

For the United States the pursit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence--on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people, whether they admit it or not, is that nothing should disrupt their access to those goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part through the distribution of largesse at home (with Congress taking a leading role) and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad (laregely the business of the executive branch).

From time to time, various public figures--even presidents--make the point that dependence may not be a good thing. Yet meaningful action to reduce this condition is notable by its absnece. It's not difficult to see why. The White House and the upper echelons of the national security state--acutally benefit from this dependency: It provides the source of status, power, and prerogatives. Imagine the impact just on the Pentagon were this country actually to achieve anything approaching evergy independence. U.S. Central Command would go out of business. Dozens of bases in and around the Middle East would close. The navy's Fifth Fleet would stand down. Weapons contracts worth tens of billions would risk being canceled.

Rather than insisting that the world accomodate the United States, Americans need to reassert control over their own destiny, ending their condition of dependency and abandoning their imperial delusions. Of perhaps even difficulty, the combination of economic, political, and military crises summons Americans to reexamine exactly what freedom entails. Soldiers cannot accomplish these tasks, nor should we expect politicians to do so. The onus of responsibility falls squarely on citizens.

Let's all hope and pray that Senator Obama will soon become extraordinarily enlightened--and courageous enough to break the long chain of imperial presidents!

Norm Patry

Wesley Chapel, FL

Oct 23 2008 - 3:06pm

Web Letter

I'm sorry, Ms. Hirshman, but this story of yours spacks of Robin Hood economics. My husband and I worked very hard to build a very comfortable life for us and our children, and we most certainly didn't have our hands stuck out, expecting a handout. And contrary to what Obama wants Joe the Plumber to think in terms of his "former struggling self," that self didn't receive nor expected to received any handouts. He got to where he is because of his talents and abilities.

The Obama ecomomic plan will do absolutely nothing but continue the cycle of welfare and poverty on a different scale. I would have thought the liberals learned their lessons from the last welfare policy enacted. Their "good intentions" poisoned over three generations of Americans who could have otherwise benefitted from being taught valuable skills that would have enriched society as a whole. Instead, they've collectively snuffed out any desire to achieve. Tell me, if I gave you money every month, and tax credits on top of that every year, what incentive would you have to work?

"If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime."

A.J. Cook

Dunwoody, GA

Oct 23 2008 - 10:58am